Group requests Bachmann ethics inquiry

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is calling for an investigation of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. The group alleges Bachmann broke House rules by promoting a recent rally on her official website.

Here’s the CREW news release:

17 Nov 2009 // Washington, D.C. – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) requested that the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) investigate whether Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) violated House rules by organizing and holding a November 5th rally on the U.S. Capitol grounds to oppose a health care reform bill.

CREW contends that Rep. Bachmann misused her official congressional website by urging people to come to the Capitol to protest the legislation despite House rules restricting members from using their websites to engage in “grassroots lobbying or solicit support for a Member’s position.” Rep. Bachmann’s website urged people to come to the Capitol rally “and tell their Representatives to vote no” on the health care reform bill.

“Taxpayers fund members’ websites and because of that those sites may not be used to organize a public rally for or against any particular legislation,” said Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director.

CREW also asked OCE to determine if Rep. Bachmann and other members violated House rules by failing to acquire a permit for the Nov. 5 rally and by falsely calling the event a “press conference,” though no questions were asked by the media. Politico quoted from a Republican Study Committee email directing staff members to “please make sure your boss does not term this event a rally.” A Capitol Police spokeswoman confirmed the lawmakers had no permit for a demonstration. In a TV interview, however, Rep. Bachmann urged opponents of the bill “to come to Washington, D.C. by the car load.”

“Whoever heard of a press conference without questions?” asked Sloan. “Calling a rally a press conference to circumvent congressional rules is like calling a Hummer a Prius to meet fuel efficiency standards.” Sloan continued, “The OCE needs to make clear that members must abide by all rules, even those they find politically inconvenient.”

Bachmann spokesman Dave Dziok referred questions to the House panel that rules on such matters.

“Unfortunately there are some members of the media who have taken allegations from the DCCC and spread these rumors without even checking with the House Administration Committee,” Dziok said.

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